Guide to Cuban cigars

Guide to Cuban cigars
Photo Credit: Bill Frakes

A complete guide to to buying the most inspiring product of Cuba--where, when and how

September 02 , 2015
02 Min Read

After Fidel Castro, cigars are the most honest, heroic and spiritually uplifting product of Cuba.Though many countries today produce excellent cigars, the ‘Havana’ is unique in its aroma and complex taste. Cuban cigars come in all shapes, sizes, strengths -- and even qualities -- so great care must be exercised before the uninitiated plunge in to what will eventually be a rewarding and lifelong attachment.

Rule No. 1: The next time you are in a cigar store contemplating the confusingly large number of brands and boxes on display, remember that you want to avoid machine-made or even machine-bunched cigars. Not all Cubans are 100 per cent handmade – especially the cheaper ones -- so you need to look at the bottom of whichever box catches your fancy to see whether it has the following magic words printed on: “Hecho en Cuba. Totalmente a mano’’(Made in Cuba. Completely by hand). If these words are not there, forget about buying the box.


Which brand? Ideally, one should have a combination of different brands and sizes on hand for the different occasions on which one expects to be smoking cigars. For the morning and afternoon, lighter brands like Fonseca or El Rey del Mundo are an excellent option, but for the evening and night, especially after dinner, the more full-bodied Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Ramon Allones or Bolivar make for a very pleasing smoke. Though large Cuban sizes like Churchills and Double Coronas tend to be very expensive, the sheer smoking pleasure more than makes up for the cost.

Where to buy? The cheapest place to buy Cuban cigars abroad is, of course, Cuba, but don’t expect any bargains. The cheapest good brand is Flor de Cano but prices would start at around $30 for a box of 25. Montecristo No. 4 would be $80, Romeo y Julieta Churchill $150 and the exquisite Cohiba Siglo V $300. Be warned of counterfeits in Havana. That box of Cohibas being sold to you for $50 by a man on the street who’s ‘uncle works at the cigar factory’ will contain nasty machine made smokes not worth more than $5.

After Cuba, your best bet is Spain, the largest importer of Havanas in the world. Despite local taxes, prices are not much higher than in Cuba. If you are in Madrid, buy your cigars retail and not at the duty free store at the airport, where the selection is poor. In Europe, the cheapest duty free cigars are at the Zurich, Geneva and Paris (Charles de Gaulle) airports. Avoid Heathrow, unless you have no option. In the Middle East, Dubai and Beirut airports have excellent cigar selections and prices are generally more competitive than in Europe. And remember, since it’s illegal to take Cuban cigars into the US , be sure to buy them on your way back from the States. In India, the sole importer of Cuban cigars is Chetan Seth. Apart from mail order, Mr Seth runs an outlet called Cingari at the Oberoi hotel in Delhi.

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